by Jacquie D'Alessandro, historical (2004)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-053671-3
Jacquie D'Alessandro has proven very well, I think, in her last few books that she can write humor very well. Now all she needs to do is to put out a book that feels cohesive instead of a delightful string of clichés that don't come together in an air-tight manner. The reader will have to decide for himself or herself whether the heroine, who is struggling to conceal her identity as the author of a female emancipation tract, is someone who puts her money where her mouth is or is just someone whose bark is worse than her bite. Me, I'm leaning towards the latter.
Lady Catherine Ashfield used her experiences from her previous unpleasant marriage to write A Ladies' Guide to the Pursuit of Personal Happiness and Marital Fulfillment. The book takes Regency London by storm. Women begin putting their foot down where their husbands' vices - like gambling - are concerned and even asking for better sex in the bedroom. Men want the author of this book to be stringed up in the town square. Andrew Stanton, probably one of the few American heroes in this kind of books that aren't a visionary egalitarian dude, agrees with these men. He will help them discover the identity of this author. While he's at it, he'll also court his good friend's sister Catherine, whom he has been waiting for all this while to come out of mourning. Oops. While Catherine tries to stop him from learning of her literary side-career even as she tries to change his way of thinking, a series of "accidents" plaguing Catherine will force Andrew to take care of his woman. So much for emancipation.
The characters are trademark fun folks of this author and the repartees and sexual tension all sizzle. Unfortunately, this is also a story where the heroine is keeping the fact that she's in danger from the hero. This is also a story where the heroine isn't willing to stand up for her beliefs, preferring instead to remain anonymous, an action which contradicts much of what her book stands for. On the most part, this book is predictable and the characters stand out only because the author manages to keep them sparkling through humor and enough genuine tenderness between them.
Love And The Single Heiress makes a pleasant, humorous read. The characters have some baggages but not enough to jettison the light tone of the story, so much so that I sometimes find the tone of the book perplexingly flippant where the danger to Catherine's life is concerned. But the biggest disappointment on my part has to come from the fact that Catherine's book and her principles end up becoming an arsenal in Andrew's courtship of her instead of being a convincing part of her personality. I can't help feeling that this story ends up trivializing itself more than it should have.
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